Somebody made a manga based on me!Posted: October 15, 2017
Actually, Butsurigaku wa yasashisugiru desu is based on a romanticized view of physics research at a Japanese all-girls high school. I’m a physics researcher obsessed with Japanese culture, who wishes he were young and filled with dreams like back in high school.
So close enough.
Originally, I was going to post this as a review on MyAnimeList’s page for this manga (Yasashii Sekai no Tsukurikata), but found that I didn’t care about actually reviewing the series and instead wanted to go off on a tangent and rant about scientific (in)accuracy. But before jumping into the shallow end – give the series a read. It’s a short (30 chapters) series on overcoming personal struggles, with a stupidly large emphasis on schoolgirl-teacher romance. It’s nothing great, but at least better than your average shonen romance.
Instead of pointing out everything the manga did right or wrong about portraying my shit life as a physics researcher, I’ll show some cropped pictures and explain how they made me feel. Some spoilers, but who cares lol
First off, we have the “no friction” joke that was basically a meme in my friend group in college. It’s like the spherical cow joke: wacko physicists are obsessed with making hard problems a lot simpler, so they take a cow and call it a sphere and then solve the sphere and say they have the answer.
But really, it’s (mostly) all just small corrections. No friction? No problem. You just lose a little speed or height or something. It’s not like I learned anything extra about high school physics by acknowledging the existence of friction.
This scene has a girl saying high school physics is easy because there’s no friction. Nobody would say that. It’s easy because you look up an equation and then you plug in the numbers, not because friction is some crazy mystical thing that only smart people can solve.
Triggered level: 4/10
This manga makes it look like writing equations on a board is SO MUCH FUN!!!!
BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT!!!!! Slogging through pen-and-paper calculations is the most tedious thing in the world holy shit
It’s the joy in exercising your imagination that’s fun, and NONE of that gets carried over when I’m looking at the happy face of this high school girl going through some stupid math.
To be fair, there are several points in the series where the mangaka tries to emphasize the discovery aspect, but most of the focus is on staring at a blackboard with equations on it. Also this comes with the caveat that I’m 1) not a pen-and-paper theorist and 2) not a theorist at all. So maybe they get excited about the actual calculation phase, but I really don’t think so.
Triggered level: 5/10
Speaking of theorists, what the fuck are these theorists doing together? Is this what physics research is like? Three dudes straining their necks to look at their laptops 24/7?
The theorists I know hole up in their caves (coffee shops) and don’t talk with other people while they work because that would be distracting as hell. Why do these guys need a lab space? Why are they not sitting down at their own desks in their comfy high class offices looking at their laptops there? What is the point of three people standing around and talking? Does the mangaka think that physics research is done by just talking to people and lightbulbs suddenly popping above peoples’ heads?
No!! It’s a lot of solo work.
Triggered level: 6/10
I wasn’t really sure how much to write here. While I obviously erased what the girl says, the guy on the left has the dumbest line. It’s so stupid. It’s just the mangaka thinking, “damn, string theory is cool! I bet this is trivial information.”
No, it’s not! And a quick search on the physicist’s handbook reveals that string theory is an umbrella term for a whole spectrum of theories, some of which use 10 dimensions, some 11, and some 26, and some whatever.
And that’s not even the point. The number of dimensions is just the most wacky thing that people latch on to whenever they hear “string theory.” It’s an attempt to sound cool and smart, and not something that an actual string theorist like guy on left would say.
Triggered level: 6/10
Really, overall this manga didn’t do that bad of a job.
It’s obviously written by somebody who knows something about physics research (grants, arXiv, fourier and laplace, etc.). But to me as a physicist, it’s equally obvious that the mangaka is a guy who got hooked on popular science (STRING THEORY, PARTICLE PHYSICS), or maybe a physicist who’s taking the popular science approach.
I don’t know what to conclude on. This post came out a bit worse than I expected, mostly because I was trying to avoid spoilers and I forgot where the juiciest bits of triggering happened in the manga.
c u next year
ps I’ve been reading a lot of good manga recently (Tsurezure Children, Hinamatsuri, Voynich Hotel, Jitsu wa…) so maybe I’ll write another post sometime.